But Balaams ass had suddenly spoken. The subject was a strange one. Grigory had gone in the morning to make purchases, and had heard from the shopkeeper Lukyanov the story of a Russian soldier which had appeared in the newspaper of that day. This soldier had been taken prisoner in some remote part of Asia, and was threatened with an immediate agonising death if he did not renounce Christianity and follow Islam. He refused to deny his faith, and was tortured, flayed alive, and died, praising and glorifying Christ. Grigory had related the story at table. Fyodor Pavlovitch always liked, over the dessert after dinner, to laugh and talk, if only with Grigory. This afternoon he was in a particularly good-humoured and expansive mood. Sipping his brandy and listening to the story, he observed that they ought to make a saint of a soldier like that, and to take his skin to some monastery. That would make the people flock, and bring the money in.
Grigory frowned, seeing that Fyodor Pavlovitch was by no means touched, but, as usual, was beginning to scoff. At that moment, Smerdyakov, who was standing by the door, smiled. Smerdyakov often waited at table towards the end of dinner, and since Ivans arrival in our town he had done so every day.
What are you grinning at? asked Fyodor Pavlovitch, catching the smile instantly, and knowing that it referred to Grigory.
Well, my opinion is, Smerdyakov began suddenly and unexpectedly in a loud voice, that if that laudable soldiers exploit was so very great there would have been, to my thinking, no sin in it if he had on such an emergency renounced, so to speak, the name of Christ and his own christening, to save by that same his life, for good deeds, by which, in the course of years to expiate his cowardice.
How could it not be a sin? Youre talking nonsense. For that youll go straight to hell and be roasted there like mutton, put in Fyodor Pavlovitch.
It was at this point that Alyosha came in, and Fyodor Pavlovitch, as we have seen, was highly delighted at his appearance.
Were on your subject, your subject, he chuckled gleefully, making Alyosha sit down to listen.
As for mutton, thats not so, and therell be nothing there for this, and there shouldnt be either, if its according to justice, Smerdyakov maintained stoutly.
How do you mean according to justice? Fyodor Pavlovitch cried still more gaily, nudging Alyosha with his knee.
Hes a rascal, thats what he is! burst from Grigory. He looked Smerdyakov wrathfully in the face.
As for being a rascal, wait a little, Grigory Vassilyevitch, answered Smerdyakov with perfect composure. Youd better consider yourself that, once I am taken prisoner by the enemies of the Christian race, and they demand from me to curse the name of God and to renounce my holy christening, I am fully entitled to act by my own reason, since there would be no sin in it.
But youve said that before. Dont waste words. Prove it, cried Fyodor Pavlovitch.
Soup maker! muttered Grigory contemptuously.
As for being a soup maker, wait a bit, too, and consider for yourself, Grigory Vassilyevitch, without abusing me. For as soon as I say to those enemies, No, Im not a Christian, and I curse my true God, then at once, by Gods high judgment, I become immediately and specially anathema accursed, and am cut off from the Holy Church, exactly as though I were a heathen, so that at that very instant, not only when I say it aloud, but when I think of saying it, before a quarter of a second has passed, I am cut off. Is that so or not, Grigory Vassilyevitch?
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